Spanish intelligence spied on Pere Aragonès during vice presidency alleging he directed CDR

Phone of current Catalan president was hacked in 2020 as CNI believed him to be head of pro-independence activist group

Catalan president Pere Aragonès
Catalan president Pere Aragonès / Mariona Puig
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 26, 2024 09:26 AM

January 26, 2024 08:19 PM

The Spanish intelligence agency (CNI) spied on Pere Aragonès in 2020 when he was vice president of the Catalan government, according to several media reports and confirmed by the Catalan News Agency (ACN).

Using Pegasus spyware, the CNI infected the phone of the current Catalan president claiming that he was the head of the pro-independence activist group Committees of the Defense of the Republic (CDR).

In response to the revelation, Aragonès denied on Friday morning that he was the head of the CDR and accused the CNI of lying. He said the accusations "have no basis" and warned that it was "absurd to associate the independence movement with "secrecy."

Catalan president, Pere Aragonès

The CNI first requested to spy on Aragonès in July 2019, and later asked for two extensions: one in October amid the protests following the verdict against the leaders of the 2017 independence referendum, and another in January 2020, during Pedro Sánchez's negotiations to become PM.

The revelation was made public after the government agreed on January 16 to release documents related to the case, now in court, in which Pere Aragonès claims that he was illegally spied on with Pegasus.

While the documents reveal the arguments used by the judge who authorized the spying, the CNI's methods and the information it obtained remain secret.

Sources in the Catalan government consider the documentation "completely insufficient" because it arrived with many sections redacted and some pages illegible.

Sergi Sabrià, the Catalan government's vice-minister for strategy, branded the CNI's documents "political garbage" because they were full of fabrications and lacked evidence.

"It is clear that Aragonès did not lead the CDR," he said in an interview with Ser Catalunya radio. 

The Spanish Minister of the Presidency, Félix Bolaños, defended that the CNI's surveillance of Aragonès was in line with the "normal functioning of the rule of law."

"These are operations that neither the CNI nor the Supreme Court are required to explain to the government when they authorize them," he said.

Spanish government sources made it clear that Aragonès' spying took place before their term in office, when the conservative People's Party was in power.


Catalangate is the name given by Citizen Lab, a research group based in the University of Toronto that reports on high-tech human rights abuses. They are responsible for launching an investigation into the espionage of several Catalan pro-independence politicians, activists and their close associates.   

It is "the largest forensically documented cluster of such attacks and infections on record," according to the New Yorker article published on April 18 of last year.   

Among the targets were Catalan president Pere Aragonès and every former Catalan president leading back to 2010.  

Victims' phones were infected using spyware programs Pegasus and Candiru. The former is known internationally for its previous infections of renowned people, such as murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi and members of Rwanda’s opposition party.  

Candiru, founded by former NSO Group employees, is not as well known but performs a similar function as Pegasus

Learn more about Catalangate by listening to our Filling the Sink podcast episode from May 2022 and read a more in-depth article on the consequences of the espionage scandal